Republicans Hold Annual Policy Retreat

Last week, the Congressional Republicans held their annual policy retreat to develop a policy agenda for the coming year. During the retreat, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced a five-point plan to promote his party in the time leading up to the 2016 elections: address national security, restore economic growth, rethink health care, overhaul poverty programs and restore the constitution. Republican leadership stressed that much of the responsibility for further developing the agenda would be in the hands of committee chairmen and rank and file membership. Both Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) committed to trying to pass all 12 individual spending bills this year, despite reservations from those members of the party that would rather not vote on a budget during an election year. Both leaders have agreed on an open amendment process. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans held a meeting last week to consider potential changes to the filibuster. The specific changes being proposed are to eliminate the filibuster on motions to consider bills on the Senate floor, to reduce the amount of time that must elapse before a vote is held to begin floor debate, and to lessen the time to proceed to a final vote after members have already voted to end dilatory debate. Senate rules currently require 30 hours of debate to occur between a cloture vote and a final vote. These changes would require the support of two-thirds of the chamber, and Democrats have been tentatively receptive to the ideas. If approved, the changes would take effect at the beginning of next year.

Moonshot to Cure Cancer Kicks Off

Almost immediately following the President’s State of the Union challenge to the nation to find a cure for cancer, Vice President Biden began work on the effort. The Vice President has said that his priority will be increasing both public and private dollars to fight cancer, and on breaking down the silos that prevent the sharing of cancer data and research. Biden has said that he will convene the first meetings with administration officials next month, and that he will continue meetings with leaders in cancer research and advocacy. During a roundtable discussion with medical researchers at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday, he explained that the President will soon announce a presidential memorandum that allows Biden to convene a task force on the subject. He also noted that this is an issue that he plans on being involved in for the rest of his life. The Vice President’s efforts have been praised by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who has pushed for increased funding for medical research through H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act. Immediately prior to the State of the Union address, a group of biotech companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, doctors and researchers announced the launch of a coalition called the Cancer MoonShot 2020. The Vice President’s sonin-law, a medical doctor, spoke at the Coalition’s launch event. The group aims to complete immunotherapy clinical trials for up to 20 tumor types in as many as 20,000 patients by the year 2020.

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